Put the bad guys on stilts
The founding legend of the Olympiad is the story of Pelops, grandson of Zeus, who hosted the first version of the Games as a funeral celebration for his defeated father-in-law King Onomaus of Pisa. Pelops fell in love with Oinomaos’ daughter Hippodamia, but in order to win her hand in marriage, he had to defeat the king in a chariot contest. Pelops was victorious, but only after the Oinomaos chariot captain was bribed to replace his chariot’s bronze axle pins with wax ones, thus sabotaging his flight and causing his death.
The Greeks believed in naming and exposing those who cheat
For as long as there has been sport, there have been cheaters. In Greece today, many lanes leading to ancient stadiums are lined, and there are bases that once held great statues, statues not of sports heroes, but sports villains. A walk out of shame, the Greeks believed in naming and exposing those who cheated, those who distorted their sport.
Some might say why do you glorify cheaters, and why do you glorify their works of art? Side of a teacup dated 490 BC depicting a gladiator biting and striking his opponent’s eyes while the referee beats him with a stick. The Greeks apparently believed that these publicly displayed technical commissions would serve as a warning to others, and a deterrent to deter potential fraudsters and accomplices from spoiling the game’s reputation.
Tip of the iceberg
Cheating scandals and more are on the horizon as RTA (Real Time Assistance), card sharing, shadows and multiple accounting pose an existential threat to online poker. Some in the poker community may be sick and tired of hearing this, but they need to put up with because we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg now.
Some of the major poker sites have at their disposal an abundance of guides. Their customers have software that lives up to the level of spyware. Once you download it, they know what other programs you’ve opened and with the specific data they can get, a conclusive picture of cheating behavior can be drawn.
At a press conference on July 5, GGPoker announced the creation of the Poker Integrity Council (PIC) to help combat unethical play. Less than four weeks later, the board of Jason Cohn, Andrew Lichtenberger, Fedor Holz, Seth Davis and Nick Petrangelo is preparing to drop the hammer on a number of high-profile offenders.
poker integrity board
Back in September 2020, German poker player Fedor Cruz made headlines when his roommates whistled for his use of an RTA known as a “dream machine”. GGPoker eventually blocked him and confiscated $250,000, while other sites returned his credits before closing his accounts.
Later that same month, GGPoker banned 40 additional accounts for RTA use and issued final warnings for another 40 accounts. In total, the operator seized about $1.2 million from 13 banned accounts:
In recent months, Ali Emserovic, Jake Schindler, and Brian Kenny have all been accused of cheating, leading many in the community to demand the implementation of an industry-wide blacklist. The pic certainly represents a step in that direction with GGPoker referring to that player-centric jurisdiction for the last two steps of its three-step process:
Detection – GGPoker’s security team flags suspicious behavior such as collusion, ghosting or bot play/use of RTA.
Review – Council members review the relevant hand histories, with the player or players remaining anonymous.
Ruling – Council members vote on the appropriate disciplinary action. The nature of that action will be determined by the severity of an offence ranging from warnings to a permanent GGPoker ban and the confiscation of funds.
Keeping the streets of poker clean
It now seems likely that GGPoker had this idea in mind when they signed with Koon in October 2021. A player known for his integrity, his presence on the board carries weight in the community. According to Kuhn, August 1 is D-Day for some of the most outrageous cheaters.
On July 12, Koon hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on the topic of a pic.
Koon was unable to comment on specific individuals, but said that GGPoker will share the names of those the board rules against with the World Series of Poker, Triton Poker, Kings Casino, After Dark Poker, and other live rounds linked to their site.
Koon was also adamant that he wanted other online operators to follow suit, saying “we want the PIC to really be an industry-wide initiative,” adding that the goal is “to keep the poker streets clean.”
PokerStars bans cheaters on live stops
Keeping poker streets clean means confronting cheaters both on a virtual and real level, so it’s good that GGPoker recognizes the need for that consistency. On the same topic, it’s worth noting that Imsirovic and Schindler showed up to play EPT Monte Carlo in April, but oddly enough, they both played only one event at the start of the festival, leading many to suspect that they were later banned by PokerStars.
They unanimously agreed in their anger that the known cheaters were playing at EPT Monte Carlo
Kruse was also seen near the event venue in Monaco, but he has never participated in a tournament. Maybe he was on vacation, or maybe it was a similar fate. What we can be sure of, however, is that the high roller community has been vociferous and almost unanimous in their anger that known cheaters were playing at EPT Monte Carlo and PokerStars responded to that outrage. Some clarifications can be found in the PokerStars blog of July 1 penned by the President of Game Integrity, Francis Lincoln. In it he wrote:
“Previously, some players who have been banned from their online activities have also been told that they are not welcome to play in our live events. However, we have determined that the policy was not as comprehensive as it should be… We are working to ensure that no player who is banned is not welcome to play in our live events. PokerStars for game integrity reasons to play in any of our live events. This would be true even if their online crimes weren’t reproducible in a live environment.”
The tightening of this process is welcome news because it stands to reason that if a player’s past actions lead to their PokerStars account being closed for violating game integrity, the player they played against should not confront them in the live PokerStars environment. .
Does GGPoker have moral authority?
With a pic, GGPoker has made game and security integrations more robust and transparent, but some in the community have criticized the idea, claiming it is nothing but a publicity stunt. I strongly disagree.
One could correctly point to GG’s use of the proxy system and willingness to condone VPN use for years, feeling it undermines their moral authority, but this is not a situation where the game takes advantage of “people in greenhouses shouldn’t throw stones”. On those fronts, JJ’s actions warrant investigation, but that’s a separate matter, and she’s totally on the right side.
Another criticism leveled against PIC is the appointment of Holz, owner of Odin, as the fastest poker analyst on the market. On the one hand, he is an elite player who is certainly qualified to judge whether someone is playing “well” and calls into question. On the other hand, it somewhat undermines the mission when a board member directly benefits players using a piece of equipment that can generate GTO solutions in 20 seconds. Time will tell if its net existence is positive or negative.
Red letter day?
So will August 1 be the poker community’s Red Speech Day? I hope that. In poker there are more than a few rotten apples and the cheaters for a very long time have been able to thrive, realizing that the worst thing that can happen to them is to be banned by that site.
The spread of cheaters is hurting all of Poker right now
It is clear that poker sites compete with each other and got to know how to provide the safest platforms to play on is a selling point. The problem is that the proliferation of cheaters is harming every poker game at the moment, so it is in every company’s best interest to put their weapons to this very topic.
Dealing with this issue will require a standardized approach and more coordination as sites find palatable and are permitted by law. From whistleblowers to security teams, from poker integrity boards to game integrity chiefs, from poker players to the poker media, stopping cheaters will take a village.
Like the ancient Greeks, let us build our own walk of shame and disgrace and ostracize those who distorted our great game.